Shillong, June 20: For the second time in eight years, former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno Agitok Sangma today parted ways with Sharad Pawar and his Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). He tendered his resignation to Pawar from the primary membership of the party, determined to contest the presidential election.
The NCP, which has decided to back UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee for the post of President, was opposed to Sangma's candidature and threatened disciplinary action.
In January 2004, Sangma had created a split in the NCP after Pawar apparently became close to the NCP's former rival and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. However, after losing the battle for the NCP election symbol, Sangma later merged his faction with Mamata Banerjee's Trinamul Congress, forming the All-India Trinamul Congress.
In the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, Sangma defeated incumbent Meghalaya chief minister Mukul M. Sangma. While the former Lok Sabha Speaker polled 1,91,938 votes, Mukul managed to garner only 1,19,175 votes.
But the association between the "undisputed king of Garo hills" with Banerjee was short-lived. In 2006, he resigned from the Lok Sabha and returned to the Pawar camp, contesting on an NCP ticket. He again defeated Mukul Sangma by polling 2,20,024 votes against 1,18,848 votes garnered by Mukul.
As Sangma gears up for presidential polls, his two sons and daughter ' all elected NCP representatives ' are apparently torn between the party and family. His sons, James and Conrad, are legislators in the Meghalaya Assembly while his youngest daughter, Agatha is the Union minister of state for rural development in the UPA government.
Asked to comment on the latest development, Conrad, who is also the leader of the Opposition in the state, said, "As a family, we are with our father." Both Conrad and James are now in Delhi with their father.
However, speaking as an NCP leader, Conrad said Sangma's resignation was a "sad situation" as the state unit has lost "the guiding force of the party".
"His (Sangma's) resignation was done at an individual level. There is nothing wrong in it although we will be losing one legislator from the present 14," he said, adding that the NCP state unit would be meeting soon to take stock of the situation.
Conrad also said Sangma would be resign from the Assembly. The veteran leader got elected to the Meghalaya Assembly in the 2008 polls. "I think the resignation letter would be reaching Meghalaya Assembly Speaker Charles Pyngrope latest by tomorrow," he added. James said as the development came all of a sudden, the party would be meeting soon to discuss the matter, especially in view of the Assembly elections next year.
In May 1999, the famous troika of Sharad Pawar, Tariq Anwar and Purno Sangma created a split in the Congress after they were expelled from the party for challenging Sonia Gandhi's right to become Prime Minister in view of her "foreign" origins.
While the formation of the NCP was based on the tried and tested "identity politics", the latest fallout between Sangma and Sharad Pawar is also, ironically, based on the same "identity politics". For more than a month now, Sangma had been campaigning among various political parties to choose a "tribal" candidate in the race to Raisina Hill.
"The disinclination of the NCP to endorse my candidature amounts to a denial of the aspirations of the tribals of the country. At the same time, I cannot ignore the feeling of tribals that Raisina Hill should not continue to be a distant dream for them," Sangma said in a statement from New Delhi today. These words say it all. Sangma, who formed the NCP along with Pawar and Anwar on the issue of identity politics, has now left the party on the same principle.